Some films are made by craftsmen while others are made by committee. ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1’ falls into the latter. Following from the previous instalment, ‘Catching Fire’, it is less captivating and more calculating. Based on Suzanne Collins’ popular book series, the movie franchise has generally done it justice. ‘Mockingjay – Part 1’ sees this goodwill stretched as the final chapter is extended to enable the further ringing of box office registers.
After her rescue from the Hunger Games tournament, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) becomes a hero. A symbol of hope for her hometown of District 12, ruled over by evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland), Katniss is full of resolve. One of her aims is to rescue Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), her games partner. Helped by District 13’s President Coin (Julianne Moore), Katniss is determined to free her people from under the crushing weight of tyranny.
After ‘Catching Fire’s dynamic energy, much was expected for the follow-up. Unfortunately ‘Mockingjay – Part 1’ takes the foot off the accelerator to deliver a somewhat plodding entry. There isn’t anything inherently bad, just the story moves at a glacial pace. This lessens the urgency our heroes face diluting much of its impact. ‘Mockingjay – Part 1’ is akin to an amiable stroll rather than a furious race to a climax for which we have to wait for another film.
Francis Lawrence directs with a steady hand and utilises his actors well. Jennifer Lawrence provides a solid performance even if her character is reduced to endless crying scenes. Sutherland has the most fun as the waspish villain and adds colour to an otherwise drab movie. The series’ themes still provide interest with the media manipulation to win wars fascinatingly conveyed. The few action sequences enliven events and serve as an appetiser to a hopefully grand finale.
Sure to rake in big bucks, ‘Mockingjay – Part 1’ should achieve what it was created for. Whether splitting the story into two is an artistic achievement is debatable. Hopefully Part 2 will provide a satisfying climax even if the temptation to continue will always be too hard for Hollywood to resist.
Rating out of 10: 6
Can wealth make people oblivious to other events? Does money change moral codes? ‘Human Capital’ attempts to answer these questions. Based on Stephen Amidon’s novel, it uses an accident to tell a quartet of related stories. Using a pseudo-Rashomon effect device – where the same incident is told from different perspectives – ‘Human Capital’ is often fascinating. Filled with strongly written characters, it is a fine study in wealth’s sometimes insidious nature.
On Christmas Eve, a cyclist is killed by a speeding driver. Connected to this incident are Dino (Fabrizio Bentivoglio), his daughter Serena (Matilde Gioli) and their friend Carla (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi). Living life in affluent wealth, they initially consider the death a passing nuisance. As the police investigation intensifies, their insular world-view gradually unravels. With black-mail, deceit and vengeance part of the mix, they discover money holds little sway in the search for justice.
Although Amidon’s book was set in America, ‘Human Capital’ easily translates to Italian climes. The theme of money’s allure is universal with the story skilfully adapted. Making it work are the intriguing characters and Paolo Virzi’s astute direction. He generates a true sense of foreboding as his cast of personalities wrestle with inner traumas. Their reaction to wealth and those they meet is often startling. When the lure of generating more dollars is in their grasp, their true nature surface as ‘Human Capital’ effectively conveys.
Within the mystery of the cyclist’s death is the engrossing intermingling of timeline. Flitting before and after the terrible event, the narrative slowly unfurls everyone’s emotions. From desperation, desire, hate and love, their conflicted ideals become stretched. These scenes are free from any melodrama as the actors portray events with genuine authenticity. Their surrounds are suitably lush adding to the script’s qualities until the captivating conclusion.
Whilst the motif of ‘poor rich people’ has been done countless times ‘Human Capital’ gives it a fresh sheen. It proves why money will never go out of fashion with the constant lust for dollars a currency few would find hard to discard.
Rating out of 10: 7